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Barbara Montgomery’s recordings may not be retailed in vast quantities, and thus they may not be immediately available to listeners who enjoy enlightening jazz singing. But her latest recording, Dakini Land, is worth seeking. Perhaps suffering the ironic plight of Diana Krallthat is, that her physical appeal distracts from the perception of her inherent vocal talentMontgomery leaves no doubt about the depth of her insight or commitment in this album, which focuses on the often overlooked vocal potential of Chick Corea’s music.
No, “Spain” doesn’t appear on Dakini Land. Rather, Montgomery investigates Corea’s tunes that have a personal significance for her. A practicing Buddhist who adopted the religion as a witness to Viet Nam’s social upheaval when she lived there as a girl, Montgomery has deepened the expression of her religious commitment through her music. Corea’s compositions, and especially “Crystal Silence,” had a spiritual and therapeutic effect on her when she was recovering from Lyme Disease. In fact, some of the sales of Dakini Land are donated to the Lyme Disease Foundation.
While philanthrophy is all well and good, in the end, it’s the music that makes the album. And it’s a pleasure to report that Montgomery interprets sometimes difficult melodies with ease and a huskiness that lure the listener into her realm of deep inner feeling released through music. Surrounded by a group of friends who happen to be Philadelphia musicians as well, Montgomery takes advantage of the camaraderie evident in the spirit of the CD to create a fully realized statement of her beliefs. Even the first tune, “What Game Shall We Play Today,” evokes Buddhist symbolisms of playfulness and immediacy. Dakini Land itself refers to Buddhist angelic entities with sprightly, overseeing characteristics.
In spite of the profound meanings of the tunes, Montgomery’s music is entirely approachable, particularly as it comes to life through the skills of musicians like lyrical saxophonist Chris Farr, inspiring electric bassist Chico Huff or Montgomery’s co-producer and pianist Barry Sames.
Montgomery diverges from her presentation of the influence of Corea’s music in her composition of three tunes on the album, one of which, the clavé-driven “The Reason Why,” she sings in Portuguese. A special delight on that track includes violinist John Blake’s energetic violin solo over several choruses.
Montgomery ends Dakini Land in the same consistent spirit of joy and extroversion. Corea’s “Sometime Ago,” long sung tones over percolating percussion, emphasizes ever-lasting child-like hope sustained through wonder, appreciation and play.
Track Listing: What Game Shall We Play Today, The Reason Why, Miles To Go, Crystal Silence, Carousel, High Wire, 500 Miles High, You
Personnel: Barbara Montgomery, vocal; Bob Meashey, trumpet, flugelhorn; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Chris Farr, saxophone; Craig Ebner, guitar;